Mettanando Bhikkhu (Thai Buddhist Monk) gives expert video advice on: How can meditation help with stress?; Can meditation help to relieve pain?; Do you need a mantra to meditate? and more...
Can anyone be taught how to meditate?
Most people can meditate, but not all can do it well. Meditating is for your soul, for those who would like to live a happy life. Not far from meditation is the meaning of life. I've found that the true meaning of life is beauty, and it teaches two rules of life. Rule number one is that life is beauty, and rule number two is that whenever you have doubt that life can be otherwise than beauty, come back to rule number one again. Life is always beauty. However, there are problems in life. Problems come in different forms, in different ways, in different locations. Sometimes you can expect them and sometimes you can't, but solving problems is always good. The more problems we solve, the more beauty we add to our life, and the more beauty we add to our life, the more beauty we add to the world. Meditation is a tool that allows one to discover the true beauty inside, and once it is discovered, it will remain with you for the rest of your life.
How do you teach meditation?
The technique is comprised of three parts that I teach. Part one is very simple; I call this quiet observation. There's no mantra or ritualization at all. It Just consists of building up of self awareness that you become very sensitive to your own mental movement, mental phenomenon. Then by being quiet and peaceful, I introduce the second part. It is called cultivation of universal love. Love is a very strong feeling in all of us and when we chant love we feel happy and joyful. Now this technique magnified the energy of love in ourselves, and shares with everyone and everything in the whole universe. It is very sweet and it is very useful meditation. Then when the person becomes calm, we introduce the purification of the self. When the mediators see himself or herself very clearly and feel the energy inside and by the allocation or navigation of the energy path that could help to heal.
Where should you meditate?
You can meditate anywhere. Well, I don't require people to sit cross-legged. It's up to the condition of the patient. And I have experience in teaching patients at the end of life, and I found these techniques very useful. For patients at the end of life, it's very effective, it doesn't require lengthy teaching, it's short, and it's very effective. People feel relieved and happy in a very short time and have a strong sense of well being in a short time.
How can meditation help with stress?
The first technique which is called quiet observation is effective enough. If you feel overwhelmed with work, not in control of yourself, overwhelmed with negative energy, just give yourself 5 minutes in a quiet room, allow the body to rest, allow the body to relax and also allow the mind to be free. Allow it to think whatever it likes to think, to feel whatever it likes to feel, to dream whatever it likes to dream. But just be aware of it, no intervention, no pushing or pulling, just be aware like you are watching the dance of the mind, allow the mind to dance on dance for only 5 minutes. You'll feel that is very refreshing, the mind becomes peaceful, all the negative energy is drained away. This is a very simple technique.
Can meditation help to relieve pain?
It's a kind of non-medical therapy. When you come across patients who have enormous pain I just tell them, "Now, allow yourself to rest, take a deep breath, hold it, and then force it out with intention so that all the pain is released. Do it a few more times." Psychologically it works to a certain level. It's buying time for the medication to take effect and it's useful. It relieves pain, but pain is an abstract sense. People who have agony in life will have conflict and guilt, and their threshold of pain is very low so a small pain is magnified because of it. But a patient who has a good emotional background and peaceful sentiment usually has a higher pain threshold. When we deal with pain there are many elements we are dealing with, so if we teach mental technique it can also help the medication to work more effectively.
What is a mantra?
Mantra is a word derived from Sanskrit that also exists now in the English dictionary. In Sanskrit, the term mantra means 'Tool for Thought' where a 'man' represents a good mind to think and 'tra' refers to a tool. Traditionally mantra means a sound, word, faith or sentence passed on by a guru to his disciples to say it again and again to navigate the flow of consciousness. Alternatively mantra can also mean an image or a bodily movement. Mantra is represented in different forms; for example the practice of taichi, doing yoga or visualizing an image in the mind can also be called as a mantra .Mantra is a tool that works till the end but it doesn't mean that it is the end and is used for certain specific purposes.
Do you need a mantra to meditate?
It depends. You can invent your own mantra, and you can use the mantra creatively. However, it is better to be an architect of your own consciousness, to be aware of the problems ahead of you and to design a mantra that will help you to solve the problem. I have an example. When I was doing my dissertation in the United States at Harvard, a friend of mine, who was a law student, called me one evening. He said, "Mettanando, a bad thing happened. I borrowed my mom's Mercedes and bumped into a tree. She loved the car very much. Now she is going to kill me. What should I do?" I said, "Okay, don't worry. Use this mantra, and recite it from now until whatever happens. Whenever your mom talks to you, just always repeat it in your mind, and the problem will be solved." He said, "Give me the mantra." I said, "Okay, this is the mantra. Remember, learn it well, and repeat it from now." He said, "What is it?" I said, "Okay. I'm happy. I'm joyful. Repeat it again and again." The day after he called me, he said, "It works like a charm, Mettanando. I called my mom when I parked the car, and I said, "Mom, I would like to show the car to you. I bumped into a tree." She got angry. She looked at me. She looked at the car, and she looked at me again. She was about to say something, and then she stopped and walked away. The mantra worked in a very subtle way. It changed the chemistry of a relationship, and it reshaped the body language and the facial expressions. It can heal problems in life. The best guru is yourself. Create your own mantra, and use it successfully in your life.
Who are forest monks?
The forest monks were a special group of people. They were monks. And they lived a very nomadic life. Moving from one place to another without any permanent resident. They were quite independent. But people revere them, enormously. And believe in their power, and see them as a holy sage. Forest monks were highly welcomed religious peoples, but they hardly came in touch with normal people. Kings in the past did not like forest monks. Governors didn't like them. Government didn't like them because they travel without any paper. But the tradition of forest monks went down hundreds of years - that we know. We know that the king of Thailand in the sixteenth century didn't like them at all. And wanted to reform this order. But they have one particular temple in Utah, which became headquarter of forest monks. And then at the time of King Rama the first, he appointed Wenasuki as the head of forest monks. And they became very active, and revered as meditation masters. Even now the forest traditions is almost gone. In Thailand we have names of forest monk traditions. But the way that the monks passed on their teachings, has been reformed. And they, some of them came and established forest monastery in England. So that is quite good.
How do forest monks meditate?
Forest monks use mantra. They relax themselves, take a deep inhalation and then exhale fast fully. By exhalation, they also reside a mantra so that the negative energy will be released forever, and they remain in silence for a few moments. They do this again and again three or four times.